Tag Archive | "Sag Harbor School District"

Many Possibilities for Stella Maris Property in Sag Harbor

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The building that formerly housed Stella Maris Catholic School on Division Street in Sag Harbor.

The building that formerly housed Stella Maris RegionalA  School on Division Street in Sag Harbor.

By Tessa Raebeck

A week after the Division Street property of the former Stella Maris Regional School was put on the market, Sag Harbor Village is awash with ideas and discussion about how to use the space.

“There’s a lot of interest, actually,” Robert Evjen, a broker at Douglas Elliman Real Estate in Sag Harbor, said Wednesday of the .74-acre property, which is listed at $3.5 million.

The building is 32,234 square feet and is a pre-existing, non-conforming commercial space in a residential zone. It is essentially zoned for offices or classrooms, Mr. Evjen said, “so any change in use would have to go in front of the board… I think that the best use would be probably what it’s zoned for right now.”

Although parking at the site is limited, Mr. Evjen said the building itself is in “good shape.” The school has a full gymnasium, a kitchen and “a great space for a community center,” he said. It would require “some upgrading” in terms of bringing in high-speed cable and other technical improvements, he said.

“There’s so many uses,” said Mr. Evjen, adding there’s a population in the village that needs affordable housing and over 20 local not-for-profits that are “looking for a home.”

“There’s been several suggestions by so many people—maybe the school should buy it, maybe the village should buy it, maybe it could become an incubator where our business community and artists and writers community would be in there, and also help our kids work with them on their interests—it’s got a lot of opportunities,” said Mr. Evjen.

“The majority of people would like to see the village play a part in either ownership or leasing,” he continued. “I think it would be in the best interest of Sag Harbor to have the village play some part in it, whether it’s the school or it’s the not-for-profits, that would probably be the best use.”

Sag Harbor’s Board of Education President Theresa Samot said Sunday that the school district had not “begun a process of review or analysis of this property.” However, on Monday, the board did discuss real estate during an executive session.

“The board of education is discussing it,” Superintendent Katy Graves said on Tuesday, although she would provide no specifics.

“There’s always concerns” about additional space in the district, Ms. Graves said. “We’ve seen a steady increase in our population over the last six or seven years that we are now over 1,000 students here in the district. So, that’s definitely a concern for the district.”

The superintendent added that Sag Harbor currently pays for students who require special education to be placed elsewhere, due to a lack of space in the district. Another financial consideration, Ms. Graves said, is the prevalence of out-of-district families who pay tuition to send their students to Sag Harbor.

“We have over a half a million dollars in revenue that comes in from parents that…select Sag Harbor as their school district,” she added. “So, that’s a fairly substantial revenue stream that Sag Harbor would never want to do without because we don’t have room for them.”

While a purchase does not appear to be off the table for the school district, the village appears to be uninterested in the listing. Sag Harbor resident and Harbor Committee member Jeffrey Peters asked the village board last week whether it had considered purchasing the property, saying it could be used as a village meeting place or community center.

The board did not express any desire to look into the property and Mayor Brian Gilbride confirmed last Wednesday he has no interest in purchasing it.

“We’re optimistic that it will be beneficial to the village and the community, whatever it winds up being,” Mr. Evjen said. “Of course, we get our difficult developers in there that always look for some sort of development.”

David Kronman, a spokesman for Cape Advisors, the development firm responsible for the projects at the Watchcase Factory and Baron’s Cove, said Tuesday that his firm has not looked into the Stella Maris property.

“I think it’s unlikely that we’re going to consider it,” Mr. Kronman said. “I just think between finishing up Watchcase and Baron’s Cove—we’re going to focus on executing and finishing those projects, and if other opportunities exist we’ll probably take a look at that, but I don’t know if Stella Maris fits with what we’re trying to do.”

St. Andrew’s Roman Catholic Church, a parish of the Diocese of Rockville Centre, owns the Division Street property. Stella Maris was the oldest Catholic school on Long Island, having operated for 134 years when the diocese closed it at the end of the 2011 school year due to a $480,000 deficit. Parents tried to drum up support to keep the school open, but enrollment declined in reaction to the financial difficulties and Stella Maris’s doors remained shut.

In the two-and-a-half years since Stella Maris closed, there have been two unsuccessful attempts to open pre-schools in the building and it has occasionally been used for fundraisers and village police training.

When reached by phone Tuesday afternoon, the Reverend Peter Deveraj of St. Andrew’s, said he had no comment about the church’s decision to list the property at this time. Sean Dolan, communications director for the Diocese of Rockville Centre, has not returned requests for comment.

New York Ballots Will Include Proposal to Bond $2 Billion for Technology in Schools

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By Tessa Raebeck

At the polls November 4, New Yorkers will vote on whether or not to authorize the state to issue and sell $2 billion in bonds to support statewide technological improvements.

The proposal, the Smart Schools Bond Act of 2014, was brought up at the Sag Harbor School District’s Board of Education meeting on Monday, October 20, by board member Tommy John Schiavoni, the school board’s legislative liaison.

If approved, the money raised would be used for various projects related to purchasing educational technology equipment and facilities, such as laptop computers, tablets and high-speed internet; constructing and modernizing facilities to accommodate pre-kindergarten programs and replacing classroom trailers with permanent instructional space; and installing high-tech security features in school buildings.

The measure was proposed by Governor Andrew Cuomo and backed by members of both parties in the State Legislature, including local representatives Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. and Senator Kenneth P. LaValle.

Supporters of the proposition argue students belong in classrooms rather than trailers and children are better prepared for modern careers when they learn in a setting that is technologically up-to-date. Opponents, however, say the measure would add to New York’s already substantial debt and that it is impractical for the state to borrow money to fund technology that will soon become obsolete in a rapidly changing industry.

Sag Harbor voters will have the opportunity to answer yes or no to the $2 billion bond in Proposal 3 on the November 4 ballot.

 

Videotaping Pilot

Also at Monday’s meeting, the school board discussed the progress of the six-month pilot program to videotape its meetings for online access.

“I understand that the videotape of the board meeting from September 29 is unavailable,” Noyac resident Elena Loreto said to the board.

Board of Education President Theresa Samot said the video was unable to be posted “due to technical issues.”

“It was all garbled,” explained Superintendent Katy Graves.

“There was a problem with the display and the video itself,” added Chris Tice, vice president of the school board.

School board member Sandi Kruel noted there have been fewer people in the audience at meetings since taping began, which was a concern of the board when the initiative was first considered. She added the district does not have control over LTV, the East Hampton television studio that airs the recordings, and cannot direct when those recordings are posted.

“It’s just kind of out there like we’re trying to hide something and it’s very offensive,” Ms. Kruel said of the missing September 29 video.

“This is a new process for all of us and that’s why we set this up as a pilot and we were very clear about that when we set forth,” added Director of Technology Scott Fisher, who is in charge of the program. “So, we’re trying to work out some of the technical issues associated with it.”

Mr. Fisher said he currently delivers the memory card of the recordings to LTV in person, which can result in delays in how quickly they are available online.

“They do a lot with a really small crew of people,” added Mr. Fisher of the LTV staff.

“The meeting that didn’t go up was a result of the video camera just not focusing,” he said, adding that at the last workshop they filmed the meeting from a different angle.

“It was still a problem but not as obvious, that’s why tonight I’m not using that video camera anymore and we switched to an iPad to see if we’ll have better results…we’re working all this out so I appreciate your patience,” Mr. Fisher continued.

“We proactively ask for your continued positive support even if there are some technical errors…our staff is doing the best we can having these new added responsibilities on their plate,” added Ms. Tice.

Members of the Pierson High School Student Council attended Monday’s meeting to thank the board for its service before School Board Recognition Week, which is October 27 to 31. Council President Colleen Samot, board President Theresa Samot’s daughter, Vice President Zoe Diskin, who is the daughter of board member David Diskin, and Secretary Claire Oppenheimer thanked the board for its “unending commitment, dedication and countless hours [spent] supporting the students of Sag Harbor School District.”

Southampton School Closed as Precaution After Enterovirus Case Confirmed

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By Tessa Raebeck

Southampton Elementary School closed its doors Wednesday to be disinfected after a student was found to have an enterovirus infection, Superintendent Scott Farina said in an alert issued Tuesday.

The district said the strain found in the student, who is out of school and seeking treatment, is not the EV-D68 strain of the virus that has had a nationwide outbreak, resulting in cases of severe respiratory illness in both children and adults throughout the country.

According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, non-polio enteroviruses are “very common viruses,” which cause about 10 million to 15 million infections in the United States each year, with tens of thousands of hospitalizations for illnesses caused by enteroviruses. EV-D68 is one of more than 100 non-polio enteroviruses. Although small numbers of D68 have been reported regularly to the CDC since 1987, the number of people with confirmed EV-D68 infection has been “much greater” in 2014, the CDC said on its website.

It is unclear which strand of enterovirus the Southampton student is infected with, although the district confirmed it is not EV-D68. A mix of enteroviruses generally circulates throughout the United States each year, with different strands causing more illnesses in different years.

“Most people who get infected with non-polio enteroviruses do not get sick. Or, they may have mild illness, like the common cold. But some people can get very sick and have infection of their heart or brain or even become paralyzed,” the CDC website states.

Infections can spread through close contact with an infected person or by touching objects or surfaces that have the virus on them before touching your mouth, nose or eyes.

Mr. Farina said the Southampton Elementary School, as well as the entire bus fleet, would undergo a “thorough cleaning” by an outside company on Wednesday and reopen today, Thursday, October 16.

“The company will disinfect the entire building and apply an antibacterial product to further prevent the spread of germs,” he said.

Although local schools always step up their health-minded measures going into flu season, which is also the most common time for enterovirus infections, on Wednesday the Sag Harbor and Bridgehampton school districts said they are taking extra precautions in response to the infection in Southampton.

“We disinfected classrooms last night and will do so regularly as a precautionary measure, and have reminded students and staff to wash hands, avoid close contact, cover coughs and sneezes and to stay home when sick,” said Bridgehampton Superintendent/Principal Dr. Lois Favre.

Sag Harbor Superintendent Katy Graves said the district applies a virucide to surfaces every night year-round during after-school cleaning, “but we’ve expanded that more to virtually every surface to make sure that it kills all viruses. So we’re vigilant, but we’ve become even more vigilant,” she said.

The virucide, which the state has approved for use around children, is now being used on more surfaces and throughout the day, rather than just at night. The district is also continuing its regular instruction on healthy habits.

“It’s a good wake-up call for us to always be heightened and aware,” said Ms. Graves. “We have a pretty fragile population—our little ones—so we take care of them and make sure it’s safe.”

Sag Harbor Schools Defended at Noyac Civic Council Meeting

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By Tessa Raebeck

Members of the Noyac Civic Council expressed a grim outlook for the future Tuesday evening when they gathered in the Old Schoolhouse in Noyac to hear a presentation from Sag Harbor School District administrators.

Some 15 people, including Southampton Town Councilwoman Bridget Fleming and Sandi Kruel, a member of the school board, heard presentations by Superintendent Katy Graves and School Business Administrator Jennifer Buscemi on testing results, the Common Core, the district’s financial status and other topics chosen by the council, such as “plans to improve student achievement.”

Ms. Graves and Ms. Buscemi, who are both in their first year with the district, introduced themselves to the group and stressed the strength of Sag Harbor’s students and schools. Those gathered in the room were predominately retired members of the community who do not have children who attend schools in the district.

“My guiding principle is, I do what’s best for children, what’s fair for adults and what the community can sustain,” Ms. Graves told the group, adding that she always has time to speak with all community members. She expressed the need for school administrators to communicate with the many families who are not connected to the district because they do not send their children there, but who pay taxes to the schools and “want to know what the value is.”

Ms. Graves shared figures and charts on Sag Harbor’s performance on mandated state, federal and local tests for students. “Assessment is only one piece, but we have a really shiny piece,” she said.

Despite data, information and personal anecdotes from Ms. Graves and Ms. Buscemi about the district’s financial health, “extraordinary” programs, staff and students, the room appeared unconvinced.

“Katy,” John Arendt, a Noyac resident, said to Ms. Graves, “we love our results here, but let’s fact it, we’re inundated every day with the failure of our education system, so we want to see results.”

“They don’t even teach penmanship anymore,” said Noyac resident Vincent Starace.

Although students still learn how to write, New York State no longer requires cursive instruction.

Other members of the council said teenagers no longer have summer jobs, “can’t write a sentence” by the time they get to college, and raised concerns over drug use, as well as teacher benefits and salaries.

Partners in Print Teaches Sag Harbor Parents How to be Good Teachers

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A mother guides her son through a new book at last year's Partners in Print program. Courtesy Sag Harbor Elementary School.

A mother guides her son through a new book at last year’s Partners in Print program. Courtesy Sag Harbor Elementary School.

By Tessa Raebeck 

Whether your reading consists of scientific journals or one-word road signs, it’s hard to remember when letters were simply abstract shapes in strings of confusing sentences. Through its Partners in Print program, the Sag Harbor Elementary School aims to help parents remember by teaching them how to guide their children through the learning process and effectively supplement what teachers are doing in the classroom.

Aimed for non-reading students in kindergarten and first grade and their parents, the program began in the elementary school 15 years ago. Today, Partners in Print “is kind of like a rite of passage for our kindergarten and first grade parents and kids,” said Sag Harbor Elementary School Assistant Principal Donna Denon.

“The purpose of the program is to acquaint parents with reading behaviors and ways they can support what the teachers are doing in school and what they can do at home when they’re reading with their children,” she added.

At tonight’s introduction for parents only, which starts at 7 p.m., teachers will show parents what it’s like to be a beginning reader, what strategies can be used to figure out print, what kind of books to select for which age levels and what they can expect over the four sessions, which begin next Thursday, October 23, and will run from 6 to 7:15 pm. Each week.

Each night’s session will explore a different topic, with children and parents rotating through three 15-minute sessions, visiting different teachers who lead separate but connected activities. After the short lessons on reading strategies, the students practice what they learned with their parents.

“It’s a really special time for parents and children to be together doing this kind of learning in a place where their kids spend their whole day,” said Ms. Denon.

For more information, call the Sag Harbor Elementary School at (631) 725-5301.

Technology Expands in Sag Harbor Classrooms

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An aerial photograph of Sag Harbor taken with the Pierson art department's drone. Courtesy of Peter Solow.

An aerial photograph of Sag Harbor taken with the Pierson art department’s drone. Courtesy of Peter Solow.

By Tessa Raebeck 

With iPads for eight-year-olds and a Chromebook for every middle school student, Sag Harbor teachers and administrators told the Board of Education Monday that technology is on target in the school district.

Director of Technology Scott Fisher and Sag Harbor Elementary School and Pierson Middle/High School teachers presented on “Technology to Support Student Learning,” updating the school board on what the budget buys.

“I prefer that the instruction drive the technology rather than the technology driving the instruction,” said Mr. Fisher, who admitted that although he loves his gadgets, he aims to present technology department budgets that are both cost-effective and in-line with instructional needs, not industry trends.

Technology is constantly changing and thus flexibility and regular reevaluation is required in determining which tools are used, how they are used, and in which classrooms they will work best, Mr. Fisher said.

While iPads “work very well” for young children in grades Kindergarten through second, Mr. Fisher said “as the students are getting older, we’re finding that the iPads may not be best suited for them…as we get into the older grades in the elementary school, we’ve started doing things like adding Chromebook computers to the mix.”

For the first time this school year, there is a Google Chromebook available for each Sag Harbor student in every fourth and fifth grade classroom. Chromebooks, a cheaper alternative to traditional laptops, are designed for use primarily in conjunction with the Internet.

“When we introduce new technology,” Mr. Fisher said, “we don’t simply discard the technology and toss it to the side.”

The Mac computers that were in the fourth and fifth grade classrooms are now being used by the second and third grades, and every third grade classroom now has its own full set of computers.

Seventy-five Chromebooks were also added to Pierson Middle/High School this year on three carts of 25 each that can be moved between classrooms. The library already has a set of 25.

Fourth grade teachers Jeff Reed and Liz Surozenski demonstrated how the new Chromebooks in their classrooms have helped students to collaborate with each other using Google apps and said students seem more excited and engaged with the content they’re learning.

Ms. Surozenski said in the past, her classes have only published one writing piece by this time of the school year. This year’s class is working on the third.

Mr. Reed shared a presentation on “women of war” shared on Google Drive by student Chiara Bedini. Although the fourth grader was only required to make one slide, she had instead made three: “women of the war,” “more women of the war” and “lots more women of the war.”

“You get an enthusiasm that leads to innovation where kids want to learn,” said Mr. Reed, adding that writing the content is not the end of the assignment. The end product “is the communication and collaboration of their discoveries.”

That collaboration extends far beyond the classroom. Using their new Chromebooks, Sag Harbor’s fourth graders are accessing worldwide databases such as the “World Water Monitoring Challenge,” a site that allows them to punch in data taken from Sag Harbor’s waters to be shared with scientists—and students—around the world.

Computer Lab teacher Jonathan Schwartz shared a sample lesson from Tynker, a computer programming course the district started this year. With different levels beginning in third grade, students can start by putting blocks together on a screen and grow to be typing code proficiently.

“It certainly challenges the students to create things on their own, rather than having everything told to them or handed to them,” said Mr. Schwartz. “Create something—show me what you did and tell me how you did it.”

Tynker, he said, aligns with the Common Core values of thinking, rather than reciting, and prepares students for modern jobs in growing fields.

“It’s absolutely their language and we know that that’s a huge career field,” Superintendent Katy Graves added.

Principal Matt Malone thanked the board, and especially Mr. Fisher and his team, for supporting the Sag Harbor Elementary School in implementing its new technology initiatives.

“I think we all have a sense of how lucky we are to get this technology in our hands and get to share that with the boys and girls, and it’s clear what it can do to enhance instruction and those 21st century skills,” he said.

Although some of the technological instruction are handed down to students by means of tools and software, other aspects come from directly their imaginations.

Pierson art teacher Peter Solow said although the “fundamental technology” used in the art department is still the pencil, the students and teachers are continually coming up with new ideas to integrate technology into creativity. Pierson students are using computers to convert sketches to picture books, taking aerial photographs with drones, and scanning, digitizing and archiving photographs and documents in collaboration with the Sag Harbor Historical Society and the John Jermain Memorial Library.

“The most important thing…is using technology as a tool that allows students to become self-directed in their own art making through guided, independent work,” said Mr. Solow.

Sag Harbor School District Will Look Into Later Start Times

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By Tessa Raebeck 

In an effort to listen to both concerned parents and tired students, the Sag Harbor Board of Education on Monday announced its goal to review options for a later school day start time.

As part of the board’s visions and goals for the 2014-15 school year, Superintendent Katy Graves announced an ad-hoc start time committee would be created to meet with the superintendent, Business Administrator Jennifer Buscemi, Pierson Principal Jeff Nichols, Head Bus Driver Maude Stevens and Athletic Director Donnelly McGovern, and develop multiple plans “of how we can do a later start time for the district.”

The plans are expected to be complete by November 2014, with a December 1 deadline for a report to the board, “which also puts us before our budget cycle,” Ms. Graves said.

The decision comes in light of a national discussion on moving start times for high school students later due to research that finds American students are chronically sleep-deprived and perform better behaviorally and academically when start times are moved past 8 a.m. At the end of August, the American Academy of Pediatrics joined the discussion by publishing a report recommending that all high schools start after 8:30 a.m. for students’ health, calling insufficient sleep in adolescents “an important public health issue.”

Research has found that humans’ circadian rhythms change during teenage years, making it close to biologically impossible, according to studies, for high school students to go to bed before 11 p.m. and wake before 8 a.m. Doctors recommend teenagers get at least eight and a half hours of sleep, which some Pierson students and parents say is quite difficult with a start time of 7:26 a.m., which requires some students, particularly those who live farther away or take the bus to school, to wake before 6 a.m.

Although the school board appears to be standing by the science behind later start times, the district will have to contend with athletics and bus schedules in order to make the changes, which proponents say hope will be in effect for the 2015-16 school year.

At Monday’s meeting, the district also announced its intention to “develop and present a plan by June 15, 2015 to share services with other regional school districts and municipalities with a goal of showing a cost saving to the district of two percent of our tax levy,” according to Ms. Graves.

Ms. Graves said the board has already had its first shared services meeting with five school districts in the town of East Hampton and will continue to work with regional districts in order to find ways to cut costs by sharing services such as sports teams and buses.

Another goal the board hopes to tackle this school year is improving district communications, which a survey found was an area of widespread discontent among parents and students.

The board goal, Ms. Graves announced, is to “implement and improve communication strategy to become an engaged and active pathway for school and community through newsletters, work toward a current and active website, continue with emails, phone calls and videotaping [of school board meetings].”

The parties primarily responsible for implementation of that goal are the superintendent, administrators and the “Communications Director,” a position that is not yet filled. The district aims to have a report finalized by December 15, 2014.

A communications committee that met last year had announced in the spring its recommendations that the board fill the position in-house with a full-time staff member, a communications director/specialist who would be dedicated primarily to enhancing communications between teachers and the district and parents and students.

School Business Administrator Jennifer Buscemi said similar positions in Suffolk County offer a salary of at least $46,500 in addition to health benefits, and more, adding, “There is definitely a significant cost associated with using this model.”

The Southampton School District has a “Community Relations Specialist” who is required to pass the state’s Civil Service test and is part of the district faculty.

Ms. Buscemi said an alternative to the in-house position recommended by the committee would be to use Syntax Communication, a Long Island firm that specializes in public relations for school districts, which the board used last year in a limited capacity.

Ms. Buscemi said for the standard service fee from Syntax, “you’re talking close to $90,000,” but another option “would be to go with someone part-time,” which she said would cost around $37,000.

School Board Vice President Chris Tice, who served on the communications committee, asked how much of what the committee thought was vital to improve communications “will actually get done and continue to be done consistently and well” under the less expensive Syntax package.

Board member Tommy John Schiavoni wondered how well the company would be able to integrate with the faculty and Sag Harbor community.

“I’m not ready to make any decisions on any of this until we get at least a preliminary three to five year [financial] plan,” said board member Sandi Kruel, adding that communications/technology “changes daily” and although it needs to be improved, the board needs to know “where we’re going to come up with that money.”

Ms. Tice said while they need to make a financial decision, she is concerned as to how communications can be immediately improved in the interim.

If the board is to postpone bringing a communications specialist in, she said, “then in the short term we need to figure out how to have increased attention in areas that we are failing at now.”

Katy Graves

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Sag Harbor School District Superintendent Katy Graves.

Sag Harbor School District Superintendent Katy Graves.

By Tessa Raebeck

The first week in September brings drastic changes to the East End, but one of the more standard of the season’s transitions is when children head back to school. Katy Graves, who started her first school year as Superintendent of the Sag Harbor School District last week, discusses her excitement about coming to Sag Harbor and her visions for her new role in the community.

 

What is your favorite part about the beginning of the school year?

It’s just exciting, at least for me, I think that we have the greatest job in the world—we’re preparing the new generation of children, and every year, it’s a brand new crew of kindergarteners all the way through 12th graders.

 

Have you had the chance to meet many of Sag Harbor’s teachers, parents and students?

I really consider everyone—from our administrative assistants to our bus drivers to our security staff—everybody’s a teacher, and I said that to them the first day; each one of them plays a role teaching children, teaching our family. They all play a role teaching what’s best for children and helping everyone be successful here.

I feel very fortunate, because that first day and our first conversation started other conversations…and they’ve come right up and introduced themselves and are very warm and welcoming, both faculty and staff.

[The families are] so warm and welcoming…. you really feel like their children are in a really special place and this is a very special school district.

 

With the continued implementation of Common Core and the expansion of the International Baccalaureate, Sag Harbor’s academics are undergoing a lot of changes. How do you hope to support students and staff during these changes and what do you see as their respective benefits and/or disadvantages?

We’re so successful when we put our district in the context of New York State, of Nassau County, of Suffolk County and even our surrounding school districts. Sag Harbor schools are a very bright and shining place as far as our student performance and how well our students are doing. Even with the challenges of the fast implementation of the Common Core, even with the challenging curriculum of the IB, even with the burden New York State has placed on our teachers, our students have scored well above New York State averages in their performance in every single arena.

It’s only one measure, and assessment scores should never be the only way we look at our children—we look at how happy they are to come to school, how much they love their day, how much they connect with their teachers and our staff, but for one measurement, our students are really shining and that’s a nice indication that we’re moving in the right direction and we need to continue to support our students. But we also need to support our students in the arts, in the athletics, so that they love coming to school every day.

 

When we spoke in May, you were very excited about coming to another small town and tight-knit community. Has Sag Harbor met your expectations?

I was excited about coming to Sag Harbor, but I think it’s exceeded my expectations. Everyone I meet tells me their history of Sag Harbor, either that their family goes back 300 years or how they first fell in love with Sag Harbor, be it five years ago, 10 years ago, or even two decades ago. Everyone seems to have their story of their romance with Sag Harbor and it really is a romance, it’s funny. Every story seems to be so different, but so much the same about why they love this place so much.

They have so many historical references that they really want to share and they really want to talk about—and Pierson is always embedded in that. Even if they didn’t have children who went here, [they say] how important they think Pierson Hill is and how important they think the school district is as far as being a center of the community…. they want it to be successful and they think it’s very important.

In some communities, it’s just where the kids go to school, but this is absolutely a part of our culture here—Sag Harbor schools.

Tommy John Schiavoni

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Tommy John Schiavoni, a social studies teacher at Center Moriches High School, who was elected North Haven Village Trustee in June and appointed to the Sag Harbor Board of Education last month, talks about his reasons for entering public service and the goals he hopes to achieve.

By Stephen J. Kotz

You were elected to the North Haven Village Board and then appointed to the Sag Harbor School Board in the space of two months. Why this surge in civic involvement?

With the retirement of [Trustee] George Butts I saw an opportunity to step into local government and try to effect some changes, but I do see them separately.

I had been considering the school board for some time. I liked the fact that there was an educator [Dan Hartnett, who resigned after selling his house in the district] on the board, and I was hoping an educator should step up. Then it became clear to me that maybe I should be the one to step, after being an educator myself for 25 years.

What are your chief goals as a member of the North Haven Village Board?

I am very concerned about tick-borne diseases. One of the first things I did was try to see what the numbers are. I wanted to have kind of baseline information in the village so we’d have what we need to move forward, so I went door to door. I surveyed 10 percent of the households, and I found that in 43 percent of those households someone had contracted some kind of tick-borne illness.

I would like the state health department to make North Haven a tick testing area, where they would do random sample surveys and tick drags in the spring and fall and test the ticks for disease. Whatever we do, hopefully we have a way of measuring the good or the bad.

 Have you had Lyme disease?

I had Rocky Mountain spotted fever when I was a kid and ehrlichiosis last summer, but never Lyme. My mom had babeciosis. I don’t think my family is different than any other family

What are some of the other issues affecting the village?

We just passed a resolution on helicopter noise, and I’m proud of that particularly. We have been showing up at the meetings, and Mayor [Jeff] Sander did a great job last week [at a public forum in East Hampton.] We’ve seen how the FAA works and we believe the airport would be best controlled by the East Hampton Town Board. We know there are a significant number of people in East Hampton who are not happy about the noise.

What are your plans for the school board?

I want to approach it from a teacher’s point of view. I don’t have an agenda. We have some real challenges with the tax cap and how to maintain and improve our programs when other things—fuel, insurance—aren’t capped.

I think it is a great school district, academically speaking. It’s on an upward trajectory. We’ve had a number of people who pay tuition to send their children to our schools. There have also been a number of people who move into the district to send their kids to Sag Harbor schools.

Will your new role in government help you in the classroom?

I teach participation in government and economics. There are going to be so many different ways that I can bring my experience to the classroom. I can help my students learn how to navigate the bureaucracies and become aware of the government that affects them most, which is their local government.

Your family runs G.F. Schiavoni Plumbing and Heating? How is it that you didn’t join your brothers in the family business?

Gettysburg. My parents took us to Gettysburg when I was about 10 years old. I was just enamored of it. It sparked something in me. My dad got one of the U.S. Parks Service guides to show us around. That experience with the Civil War was my first love of history—which by the way was a conflict over government—and that’s why I went into history.

Local Leaders Accept Sag Harbor Express’s Ice Bucket Challenge

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County Legislator Jay Schneiderman and Sag Harbor School District Superintendent Katy Graves accepted an ice bucket challenge issued by the Sag Harbor Express, which was dutifully administered by School Business Administrator Jennifer Buscemi and Pierson Principal Jeff Nichols on Friday, August 22. Photos courtesy Sag Harbor School District.

County Legislator Jay Schneiderman and Sag Harbor School District Superintendent Katy Graves accepted an ice bucket challenge issued by the Sag Harbor Express, which was dutifully administered by School Business Administrator Jennifer Buscemi and Pierson Principal Jeff Nichols on Friday, August 22. Photos courtesy Sag Harbor School District.

By Tessa Raebeck

After being issued an ALS ice bucket challenge by the Times Review, Sag Harbor Express co-publishers Kathryn and Gavin Menu and consultant and publisher emeritus Bryan Boyhan boldly accepted the challenge on Thursday, August 21. View the video here.

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Mr. Thiele, who was allegedly out of town Friday, accepted the challenge in Marine Park on a beautiful morning Wednesday, August 27. Photo by Mara Certic.

While trying to hide their fear awaiting the buckets–aptly distributed by our intern, Sam Mason-Jones–the publishers challenged some local heavy-hitters: Suffolk County Legislator Jay Schneiderman, Sag Harbor School District Superintendent Katy Graves and New York State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr.

At the top of Pierson Hill on Friday, August 22, Mr. Schneiderman and Ms. Graves were doused with buckets of ice water–much to the delight of their respective staffs. In the district less than a month, new School Business Administrator Jennifer Buscemi selflessly accepted the opportunity to dump ice on Mr. Schneiderman, while Pierson Principal Jeff Nichols soaked Ms. Graves with a smile on his face. A full video recording of that endeavor is available here.

 

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